Over the past few months, we have featured information on how the reporting child abuse, screening cases, and the traditional foster care program works in Medina County. Medina County Job and Family Services also run the START Program (Sobriety, Treatment, and Reducing Trauma) for families with both substance use disorder and child maltreatment. START is an intensive voluntary program for families where there is substance abuse. Cindy Kollert runs the START Program at Medina County Job and Family Services.
This program is making a difference for families in Medina County.
You can get an overview of the START Program in Ohio through this short video.
The information below is from an interview between Kristen Minichello and Cindy Kollert, Mary O’Connell, and Sharon Holmes at Medina County Job and Family Services. Since this excerpt focuses on the START Program run by Cindy, most of the answers below are from her. The interview has been edited for length and content.
What is the START Program?
I start meeting with families (who have been referred to the START Program) from the very beginning. When the intake comes in, I have a week to go out and meet with the family and get them into services. They are all substance abuse cases. They are intense and quick.
I have a peer mentor that I work with too. We meet with the families and the kids weekly. We address all safety concerns in the home.
The program is pretty much all voluntary except for just a few court-involved cases. We provide them with intense services right from the get-go and then proceed from there. You really want to engage when they want to engage. So if they are willing, we need to get them into services now.
How does the START Program differ from traditional cases?
It is more intense than the traditional cases. With a traditional ongoing case, it may take two to three months for them to get in to services. By then the family has either decided that we are horrible and angry because they feel that we took their kids for no reason or they are out getting used to not having kids at home and partying more than normal. They are resentful and just done. It is tough to get them to reengage.
Are children removed from the home while parents are in the START Program?
Sometimes I have to place the kids outside the home on safety plans while parents receive treatment.
With the START program, kids are usually home and reunified within six months. START has an excellent rate of reunification. Of twenty cases, only one has gone to a custody hearing.
It is intense and you see it. You see the light come on in the parent and they realize that you are there for them and that you really want them to succeed. After families graduate from the program, I still get tons of phone calls, messages, Facebook requests. I get pictures and updates all the time.
What are the benefits of involvement with the START Program?
Faster access to providers is one benefit. Right now, I can call and say I have this family, I need an assessment done now and they will get them in within 24 hours. I know that is not a luxury the regular intake workers always have. They can call over there and they may say I can get them in next month. No, the sooner they are in services the better the family’s chances.
Who do you collaborate with?
We work with Hope Recovery and Stephanie Robinson as a liaison to OhioGuidestone. Our peer mentor is hired through Hope Recovery Center. The peer mentor is contracted to work over here with us. It works out really well to have her here in the building and around on the case. She can help the other workers too if they are struggling. We have a whole list of providers that we’ve worked with over the years and treatment facilities, so we have lots of contacts that we can call.
The community has really embraced this program too. Everyone is very supportive of this program and the impact it is having on families and our community.